If you've ever been to Scoughall then you’ll know that first impressions can be less than remarkable.

It runs off a generator, you probably got lost on your way there, there are spiders every couple of square feet, and chances are you’re already covered in sand within seconds of arriving.

Despite this, many of us return year in, year out. And if you stay more than a few minutes (rather than checking your phone, realising you have no signal and hightailing it out of there), you might realise why.

Scoughall – pronounced Skole, although some persist on calling it ‘Scoog-hall’ – is a SU Scotland campsite near North Berwick on the east coast of Scotland. The site has survived years of loud campers, nearby caravan raves, exhausted leaders and intense wide games. However, there’s a little known history to the place.

Before it became a SU Scotland campsite over 50 years ago, Robert Louis Stevenson used to run around the same grounds so many of us have now wandered. It’s even said that he first found inspiration for his story The Wreckers on the ground we know and love. Whether this is myth or fact, the place holds the same wonder for many people that it’s said Stevenson found there.

Scoughall beach

Many fall in love with Scoughall when they step over that stile and climb the hill to the beach. It’s on the beach that I first encountered my true love for the site I now call my home away from home.

I’ve been going to Scoughall at least once a year since I was 10 years old, and am one of those who profess it as their favourite place in the world. There’s really nothing like seeing a sunset on the beach, watching the sea on a calm (or not so calm) day, or watching the thousands of stars in the sky above after the campers have gone to bed. This year some leaders and I saw 10 shooting stars, 2 satellites and hundreds of stars in about 10 minutes. An experience like that is one you don’t forget quickly.

Scoughall is where I grew up – I made best friends there, I was a trainee for the first time there, and I came to know Jesus better there. I know that I’m not alone in this, because I grew up there right along with some of my closest friends.

Scoughall isn’t just an ordinary campsite. It’s a beautiful place where many children have come to know Jesus, or come to know him even better. And if you can get past the basic living (we have lights at night now, what more could you want?) then you could encounter that too.

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Catherine McKinlay

Catherine is in her fourth year of university, and has been going to SU Holidays all of her life. She spends most of her time in the library, and loves being a group leader at camps over Easter and summer.